Beethoven’s Eighth new date!
June 30 | 7:00 pm at The Lensic
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
|Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, op. 43|
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
|Symphony No. 8 in F Major, op. 93|
|Wendy Warner, Cello|
Tickets range from $22 to $80. All ticket sales are final—No refunds. No children under 6 years of age.
This event was rescheduled from April 5, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham have temporarily prohibiting mass gatherings in New Mexico through April 9, 2020, that bring together 100 or more people in a single room, such as auditoriums, theatres, etc. READ FULL MESSAGE READ FULL MESSAGE
The Creatures of Prometheus, op.43
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Beethoven had many reasons to accept, in 1800, a commission for a ballet score based on the Prometheus myth: he had long wanted to write a work for the stage, the ballet would be created by the distinguished ballet-master Salvatore Vigano, and frequent performances would mean increased income for the composer. Doubtless the Prometheus story itself, with its tale of a hero bringing enlightenment to mankind, appealed to the young composer. He began work on the score during the second half of 1800, shortly after the premiere of the First Symphony and at the same time he was writing the “Spring” Sonata.
Prometheus had its first performance at the Burgtheateron March 28, 1801,and-despite some critical carping about the suitability of Beethoven’s music for dancing-the ballet had a reasonable success: it was performed over twenty times during the next two seasons. Beethoven published the overture in 1804, and it quickly became one of his most frequently performed works, but the score to the rest of the ballet, which consists of sixteen separate numbers, was not published until long after his death.
The Prometheus Overture is extremely concise (it lasts barely five minutes) and powerful-it is easy to understand why this music was performed so frequently. Massive chords open the slow introduction, which leads without pause into the Allegro mo/to con brio. As that marking suggests, this goes at a blistering pace, introduced quietly by a moto perpetuo theme in the first violins. Woodwinds in pairs announce the bubbling second subject, by turns staccato and syncopated. Part of the reason for the conciseness of this overture is the fact that it has no development section: Beethoven simply introduces his ideas, recapitulates them, and the Prometheus Overture hurtles to its close.
Symphony No. 8 in F Major, op.93
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
The Eighth has always seemed out of place in the progression of Beethoven’s symphonies. It comes after the dramatic Fifth, expansive Sixth, and powerful Seventh, and it precedes the grand Ninth. Within this sequence, the Eighth seems all wrong: it is brief, relaxed, and-in form and its use of a small orchestraapparently a conscious throwback to the manner of Haydn and Mozart. But the unexpectedness of the Eighth Symphony is also the source of its charm. Two things in particular mark this music: its energy (it has no slow movement) and its humor. The Eighth Symphony is one of those very rare things: a genuinely funny piece of music, full of high spirits, what (at first) seem wrong notes, unusual instrumental sounds, and sly jokes. Beethoven wrote the
Concerto in B Minor for Violoncello and Orchestra
Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904)
Dvořák’s Cello Concerto is the greatest ever written for that instrument, and so it is surprising to learn that Dvořák had reservations about writing it. He felt the cello possessed serious “limitations”: an indistinct sound in its lowest register and a thin sound in its highest, as well as the problem of making a low-pitched instrument cut through the weight of a full orchestra.
Despite this, Dvořák’s solutions to the problems posed by a cello concerto proved ingenious. Rather than scaling back the orchestra to balance with the soloist, he instead writes for a huge orchestra, adding three trombones and tuba to the texture, as well as such “exotic” instruments as piccolo and triangle. He then scores the concerto with great imagination; alternating grand gestures that use all his forces with leanly scored passages. The concerto was a triumph at its March, 19, 1896 London premiere, and it has remained the most popular of cello concertos ever since.
The lengthy opening Allegro is in sonata form, and Dvořák follows custom by introducing both main themes before the soloist enters: the quiet opening tune, a dark, march-like figure for clarinets, soon builds up to Grandioso restatement, preparing the way for the glorious second subject, a soaring melody perfectly suited to the solo horn that announces it. The solo cello makes an impressive entrance on the opening march theme, and Dvořák exploits fully the lyric and dramatic possibilities of the instrument in this movement. After so much inspired lyricism, the movement drives to a ringing, heroic close.
The Adagio ma non troppo is in ABA form, with woodwinds introducing the gentle opening section in G major before the soloist takes it up. The G-minor central episode quotes from Dvořák’s own song “Leave me alone with my dreams,” originally composed in 1887-88. This song had been a favorite of one of Dvořák’s pupils, Josefina Čermáková Kaunitzova, with whom he had fallen in love while he was a young man. She had not responded to that love, and Dvořák later married her sister. Now, as he was writing this concerto, he learned that Josefina was seriously ill in Prague and–remembering her fondness for this song—included its wistful melody in this movement. The end of the movement is extended, and Dvořák scores this very carefully, sometimes reducing the orchestra to just a few instruments. Matters rise to a menacing climax in C minor before the music falls away to end peacefully in G major.
Over a steady pulse from lower strings, horns announce the main subject of the rondo-finale, which the soloist quickly picks up. This rondo is lively and lyric, and its episodes are varied. Near the close comes the most remarkable passage in the entire concerto. Shortly after Dvořák returned to Prague in 1895, Josefina died. Stunned, the composer returned from her funeral and rewrote the ending of the concerto, adding a quiet sixty-measure section that recalls the main theme of the first movement and the song-theme from the second movement that Josefina had loved so much. This makes the ending of the concerto particularly moving, and it was crucially important to its creator. Dvořák recalls his sister-in-law one final time as the cello sings this sad melody, its final measures trailing off over quiet timpani accompaniment, and then—with this behind him—he winds the music up and rushes it suddenly to the smashing close.
—Program Notes by Eric Bromberger